Lawmakers take up issue of genetically-altered foods

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- State lawmakers are engaged in a food fight over genetically-altered food.

Supporters of a new bill want genetically-altered food to be labeled as such, while opponents say the idea is easier said than done.

As it stands, there are no laws requiring labels on genetically-altered foods, but that could soon change.

The farmlands of America may look like they did in the past, but now much of the corn and soybeans are genetically altered to make them grow faster and make them resistant to weeds and pests.

"What we want is safe and healthy food grown here in the U.S., said Tom Davis of the Washington Farm Bureau.

But there's concern that the genetically-altered food might be unsafe, and there's a call to have it labeled.

For supporters of the bill, it's both a scientific issue and a personal issue.

"This is the product that we're concerned about that's in a huge percentage of food that we're currently eating today that's been sprayed on it or genetically modified with it," said Dr. Les Berenson.

But for opponents of the bill, it boils down to business.

"The labeling issue is an impossibility for us," said Craig Smith of the Northwest Food Processors Association.

Smith and others say labeling requirements need to be done on a national level, and not state by state.

"And then you would have a patchwork quilt that simply the food system cannot function in," said Jim Jesernig of the Wheat Growers of Washington.

Supporters of the bill argue that if the federal government won't take action, the states have to lead the way.

But opponents shoot back that too much regulation will just force farmers out.

"The last thing we want is to buy our food from china. We want to produce our food here and keep it safe and healthy," Davis said.

Several Senators have asked why the FDA hasn't stepped in if genetically-altered foods are truly unsafe. Whether or not the food is dangerous, supporters of the bill say they want the option to know what's in the food they buy.

A vote on the bill has yet to be scheduled.
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